Sunday, September 8, 2013

Treasure Hunters

Treasure Hunters
by James Patterson
and Chris Grabenstein

Publication Date: September 16, 2013

Ages 8-12

ARC ISBN: 978-0-316-25316-1.

Personal Ranking 4 out of 5

"Note to self: If I ever have a ship of my own, do not call it The Lost. Because that's exactly what (and where) we were: lost at sea.
I guess we should be glad Dad didn't name his boat The Sunk,
The Drowned,
or Titanic II."

The Kidd family spends their time treasure hunting! With parents that are famous treasure hunters, Tommy, Storm, Bick and Beck have only known life on board their parents boat, The Lost. But living at sea while being home schooled by mom and helping dad run a treasure hunting business isn't so bad. In fact, they wouldn't have it any other way. That is until mom and dad go missing and the foursome is left on their own. Since life at sea is all they know, they decide to continue on dad's last mission in the Cayman Islands. But at the end of the day, who can they trust and will they ever see their parents again?

This is going to be a great new middle grade series for tweens and teens! Between the short chapters, the fast pace and the great illustrations you feel like you are right there on The Lost with the Kidd kids. You cheer for them when they win, you want to parent them when they make mistakes, and you either wish they were your kids or you were one of their siblings. But maybe that's just me, I love adventure! I didn't pick up the Arc because it was a Patterson, I picked it up because of the ARC cover and the compass on it. I am all about compasses this year, and travel and discovery.

Each of the Kidds has their own unique skill; Tommy might as well be a human compass, Storm has a photographic memory and perfect recall, Beck can draw and Bick can write. Together they use their skills to set out to finish their dad's work. Thankfully, mom and dad left them enough clues to figure out as they stumble along their way. At the end of the day, because they stick together as a family, they show us all what kids can accomplish with family and a positive attitude.

Overall, I love the concept and the humor, and I can't wait for their next adventure!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hip hop workshop empowers Richmond youth to use their voice - - Richmond, VA News

Hip hop workshop empowers Richmond youth to use their voice - - Richmond, VA News

This was the Hip Hop Empowerment Workshop held at North Avenue Library on Tuesday, August 13, 2013. With 23 in attendance, it was really well done and a big success. Kerwyn Phillip does a great job of showing teens that tweens and teens can change the world! Hip Hop was started 40 years ago by teenagers.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Arclight by Josin L. McQuein
Publication Date 4/23/2013

Teen, 13+

ARC used for review.

Personal Ranking 3.5 out of 5

No one is safe when the lights go out. 

THE FIRST RULE OF ARCLIGHT: Light is safety. Light is life. No one is supposed to survive the dark, only Marina did, but at the loss of some lives and all her memories. Other than Anne-Marie, her only friend, her classmates hate and fear her. She, and only she has survived the dark and the Fade. Then, one night, after a security breach, alliances and rules seem to start changing all around them. When Marina and some of her peers take down a Fade, they begin to question if what they have been told is really the truth. What happens when the reality you think you live in, is only half of the story? Sometimes you have to step into the dark before you can see what is really in the light.

What a story from a new, fresh voice. I know a lot of reviewers say that "they just couldn't put it down," but it is so true. From the beginning, I was captivated and there are so many twists and turns that you really feel the frustration that Marina and the rest of her peers feel at being lied to and not knowing the truth. One harsh lesson that the adults try to teach them is that sometimes knowing the truth is worse than not knowing. But, teens are stronger than you think, they can handle the truth. What they can't handle is being blatantly lied to. In a period of all of these post-apocolyptic world stories, this one will leave you wanting more.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Escape Theory

Escape Theory: a Keaton School Novel by Margaux Froley

Publication Date 3/12/2013

Teen, 14+

ARC used for review.

Personal Ranking 3.5 out of 5

Welcome to the Keaton School 

One crazy night can change your life. No one knows just how true that is more than Devon and Hutch, who met as freshman at the Keaton boarding school. Then after just one night of pancakes, poetry and promises, they have a connection that no one even knows about. Hutch was a legacy student, with a charmed life and loads of friends. Now, two years later at the beginning of their junior year, Hutch's life is cut short as the result of a suspected suicide. As if Hutch's death turning her world upside down wasn't bad enough, Devon is not the only participant in the school's new Peer Counseling program. Now, after Hutch's death, her first assignment in the program becomes providing support for Hutch's closest friends and trying to help them acknowledge their own demons. But, something doesn't feel right, and Devon finds herself deeper into the secret underworld of Keaton while she becomes obsessed with proving that the real Hutch was the boy she shared that one crazy night with two years ago.

have read so many mysteries lately that I thought I knew just who would betray who and how the story would end. I thought I knew, but I had no idea.

Now I am left with questions, like why did Devon and Hutch never spent time together again after those Nutter Butter pancakes? (What are the best tips for mastering the art of Nutter Butter pancakes.) Even though I didn't expect to really like this book, I ended up blown away by the twists and turns. (And no, no spoilers.  If I was stunned, I want you to be too!)  Devon was really able to help her peers, she gained their trust and kept at if even after being let go from the program. I am really excited to see what happens next in the second book of the Keaton School.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Panic by Sharon M. Draper

Publication Date 3/12/2013

Teen, 13+

ARC used for review.

Personal Ranking 4.5 out of 5

"All it takes is one moment, one bad decision,
for everything to change"

Diamond Landers has a good life. She lives with both of her parents, has great friends and is a talented dancer. At 15 years old, she has paid attention to all of the stranger danger lessons taught to her. But in one moment, too much temptation is dangled in front of her. He looks safe and professional, claiming he is new to the area he wants to introduce her to his daughter and her movie star friends who are all in town to addition for a movie. That is all it takes for her life to change forever. Now all her friends and family can do is wait, hope and pray for any news of Diamond and her safe return.

Wow! What an incredibly well written story that every teenage girl should read. I will definitely use this as a book club title with teens in addition to recommending it for the school's high school summer reading list. You can feel the panic setting in starting with the cover. Even though you can't fully understand the symbolism until you begin reading, it sets the tone perfectly.

Unfortunately, I have worked with too many young women who very easily could have ended up in any one of the situations shown in this story. One of the most important things about stories like this is that putting yourself in someone else's shoes, it makes you think about your past choices and how you would act in those situations. Panic shows the strengths and dangers of all different kinds of relationships and human interaction. While it didn't even really address the dangers of social media, you could talk about it during a discussion easily. All of the main characters take turns narrating different chapters, so you get to see multiple stories from their own point of view. The trade off is that they don't go into a lot of details. So even though what is going on is horrific, you are left to imagine the worst. So here at my branch, I would feel comfortable to recommend it to the middle school students as well.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

the Nightmare Affair

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
Arkwell Academy


Publication Date: March 5, 2013

Teen, Ages 13+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 4 out of 5

Nightmares may be scary, but they have feelings too

Dusty is still trying to adjust to her new life as a magickind. It doesn't help that her mother's reputation as a rule breaker is making it harder. Nightmares feed their magic by invading other people's dreams, which often involves also breaking into their houses. Being a Nightmare is hard enough, but when a Eli, a former classmate of hers is dreaming about a murder that just happens to be on campus of her new school things begin to get complicated. Not only is the murder at Arkwell Academy, but it turns out that it has just happened. Now Dusty and Eli have to work together to figure out the clues before anyone else gets hurt. But, things aren't always what they seem at Arkwell, and Dusty has to figure out just who she can trust, even if they just happen to be her mother.

What a fun ride! From start to finish, this was a fast, enjoyable read. The fun thing will all the paranormal tales out today, is that they each have their own, unique spin on tales that are familiar. Our heroine is a sixteen year old girl named Destiny, who prefers to be called Dusty, who just happens to be a Nightmare. But, because of her fractured relationship with her mom, and her late blossoming into her powers, she is untrained and not sure of anything besides the basics. Nightmares are rare, and other then her mom, she only knows of one other in the area. Unfortunately, her mom has a bit of a wild side and has given their kind a bit of a bad reputation. Even though it takes her almost the entire book to admit it, her mother's absence has given her some emotional scars. Coming to terms with her mom, will hopefully help her heal and let go of some of her anger. I kept thinking that this would make a great series. Thankfully, I read the author's bio where she mentioned that it would be! I am looking forward to my next visit to Arkwell Academy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Who Done it? an Anthology

Who Done it? an Anthology Conducted by Jon Scieszka,
and YOU, the reader


Publication Date: February 12, 2013

Teen, Ages 12+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 3 out of 5


A Serial Act of Criminal Literature to Benefit 826NYC

"You are invited to a gathering" read the invitation sent by Editor, Herman G. Mildew, to his clients. But Mr. Mildew is not only obsessed with cheese and pickles, but with being the most hated boss that ever existed. But when we arrive to the party, Mr. Mildew is dead and every author and illustrator present is a suspect. Now they each have to convince us of their alibi, when they each had desire and motive. It is up to us, the reader, to aide Jon Scieszka in his investigation. We must sort through the first-person accounts of over 80 of the best names in YA and children's fiction. Each one has a story to tell and something to hide. One which may prove that, in the end, they all did it!
I love a good mystery, especially a good murder mystery. When I was a young adult, there wasn't this wonderful genre of young adult literature. I seemed to have survived on Goosebumps, Sweet Valley High and Rita Mae Brown's Mrs. Murphy mysteries. But I digress.
This is just a fun read. And its for charity, 826NYC, "a nonprofit organization and superhero company that is dedicated to supporting students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills, and helping teachers inspire their students to write."  Sounds like a worthy cause to me and with this much talent between one cover, you won't be disappointed. But "Who Done it?" you ask, really, it doesn't matter. But it wasn't me, I've never even met Mr. Mildew...

Friday, February 8, 2013


Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles, Book 2

Publication Date: February 5, 2013

Teen, Ages 12+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 4 out of 5


"If this was her chance to decide who she was,
who she wanted to be,
then the first decision was an easy one."
Linh Cinder grew up a cyborg and a step-child in New Beijing, not sure of which one made her life worse then the other. But, after her step-mother donated her body to science, it is the doctor that discovers the reality of her being the lost Lunar Princess Selene that puts her in the most danger of all. Being the missing niece of Queen Levana only puts her in more danger as the Queen continues her pursuit of domination of the Earthern Union. Now, in prison, can she escape and reconnect with Dr. Erland?  A world away in France, Scarlet Benoit's grand-mere has been missing for two weeks and now the police have given up on looking for her. She meets a man named Wolf, who seems to know more then he says, but she can't ignore the attraction she feels. He agrees to take her to Paris, where her grand-mere is being held for a past she won't share. But it is not until trying to escape that Cinder and Scarlet's worlds collide and they realize just how much is at stake.

I loved Cinder and have been waiting, for what seems a very long time, for Scarlet! It did not disappoint. I don't even want to give too much away incase you haven't met Cinder, the little cyborg mechanic with a unknown past. This world and new reality that Marissa Meyer has envivisioned is amazing. To live in a world, after the 4th World War and fighting for your planet from an alien race that can manipulate your thoughts is terrifying and amazing. Enter this world, you will be glad you came.
The twists and turns in this one had me on the edge of my seat and the truth about both of their past's left me amazed. It is going to be a very long year waiting for Cress in 2014 and then Winter to conclude the chronicles in 2015.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cinders and Sapphires

Cinders and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed
At Somerton, Book 1

Publication Date: January 22, 2013

Teen, Ages 12+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 3 out of 5

It is 1910 and the Earl of Westlake and his daughters, Ladies Ada and Georgiana, have spent the past decade in India where their father has been the lieutenant governor. Now, forced to return to their home, Somerton, in the wake of political scandal, the family has to adapt in more ways then one. The staff at Somerton are in a rush trying to ready the home for the Averley's arrival, but then news comes of a wedding and the Lord's new wife and her children. Rose, is trying to quickly learn the ropes as the new ladies' maid, but refuses to accept the advice she has been given to take advantage of her situation. Lady Ada feels the weight of her families troubles on her shoulders, but how can she choose between her dreams and ambitions and her family?

First I am so thankful to live in a time when I did not have to fight for my right to a good education and a voice just because I am a woman. Second, to have the freedom to marry who I want, for any old reason or just because I love him, should be celebrated.

Now all of that being said, diving into the world of Somerton was like being a fly on the wall during a good period soap opera. There were so many characters and and games played among them that I just got sucked in completely into their world. Above all, I found myself cheering for Ada and her desire to be with the one she loves and pursue an education at Oxford. Thankfully, At Somerton, will be a series, and I can't wait to see what Ada and her sister's are able to accomplish. There are so many rules to society and how you should be seen that it almost forces everyone to live a lie.

In many ways there are also traces of a Cinderella-like tale, with the sudden marriage and the evil stepmother and stepsister. Except, with the father still in the picture, even though his daughters are more naive, they keep besting the evil pair. Even the stepbrothers seem to be on their side. I have so many theories and questions, but I will be patient and sit back and see what happens next.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Publication Date: December 18, 2012

Teen, Ages 12+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 4.5 out of 5


"They were never scared of the kids who might die,
or the empty spaces they would leave behind.
They were scared of us - the ones who lived."

Children are mysteriously dying all around the United States. But those who live are met with a much worse fate then death. Parents are afraid of their own children and turn them into the government. Most are carted off to camps claiming to rehabilitate them, but others are forced to run on their own with no adult support. It was Ruby's tenth birthday when her parents sent her away, and for six years she lived in one of the camps not really knowing what she truly was. When the truth comes out and she is presented the opportunity to run she takes it, but something doesn't feel right and she escapes. Not trusting any adult, Ruby ends up becoming the fourth member of a group of kids looking for a safe haven. Fighting for survival, they quickly learn that nothing is what it seems and the only ones they can trust are each other.

Totally mind blowing! By the end of Chapter 1 I was hooked, the only reasons I ever put it down was for sleep or surgery. The concept is just so amazing and utterly horrifying that it just stunned me. To be a young child and watch all of your classmates die, and then be taken away from your family because of how dangerous someone else is telling you that you are, to me is unthinkable. Yet, that is what is happening all around to these kids. I didn't know that this would turn into a series when I started, but I am glad that it will. I just have too many questions. For example, what on earth did they feed us or make happen so that children either started turning into, for lack of a better term, mutants or just dropping dead?  I am heartbroken over the ending though, I won't spoil it, but I know exactly one thing I would like to see happen by the end. I am apparently an incurable romantic.

I love the cover. I know that I normally don't discuss book covers since I feel like my yearbook background makes me a rather harsh critic, but this one for some reason is screaming at me to be mentioned. You know just from looking at it that this story isn't all rainbows and sunshine, but it just grabbed me. If I didn't have to actually work, I would have no problem reading all of the ARCs that cross my desk, but since I can't covers are important deciding factors on what books I prioritize. So, well done on this one. It is incredibly thought out, even if it takes you a while to grasp its whole meaning.

I could probably talk about this book for hours; about how well paced the plot was, my connection to the characters or just how lost I got in the story. But I won't, instead I want to mention how close to home the foursome's journey to East River was to me. I am a Virginia girl, and I spent my undergraduate days between Mary Baldwin College in Staunton as a freshman and the other three years at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, all the while driving home to Richmond along 81 and 64. At the end of Chapter 13, they are driving along 81 South, heading towards Roanoke and end up having to take the local roads through Harrisonburg. The Shenandoah Valley is exactly as she described it with breathtaking foliage and views from the highway. It is one of the many things I miss from living there. But the way she describes JMU, as a barren campus, closed to the world just broke my heart. It is one thing to get lost in this world, imagining how cold and empty it is. But nothing brought it into such sharp focus as trying to picture JMU without the friendly students that bring it to life every year. And no, that is not an exaggeration. JMU students are like no other; we hold open doors for the people behind us, smile at everyone and are committed it seems to every social cause.

To fans of the Hunger Games, like me, this is an excellent book to recommend. Ruby is just as damaged and kick-ass, and which makes her incredibly strong with the desire to protect those she loves. They are both incredibly strong and powerful women. Just incredible, and I am looking forward to the next.